New batch of AstroPis relieve Ed and Izzy of duty on board the International Space Station

If you can't find a Pi on Earth, you could run your code on orbit instead

A new batch of AstroPi computers are up and running on board the International Space Station (ISS), set-up by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer.

The units were shown off in September 2021 and launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon 2 freighter atop a Falcon 9 rocket in December. They are to replace the existing AstroPi units "Ed" and "Izzy" which have resided on the ISS for six years.

Maurer spent yesterday afternoon on the ISS setting up the new kit, which consists of Raspberry Pi 4 Model B hardware, a 12.3MP camera, and a range of sensors.

Engineers will eventually be able to control the units from the ground and upload code submissions from the Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab programs. Both are aimed at getting young people interested in coding, with one teaching participants how to write a program to take a humidity reading and display a message (without swears) to the astronauts while the other is a more complicated team-based affair.

Pi supremo Eben Upton was unsurprisingly cock-a-hoop, telling The Register: "Almost exactly six years after the first Astro Pi units were set up by Tim Peake, we finally have new flight hardware on the station.

"With Raspberry Pi 4, and the 12-megapixel high-quality camera (not to mention some very expensive optics), these are much more capable devices than their predecessors. We can't wait to see what kids on the Mission Space Lab and Mission Zero programs are able to do with them."

Testing code on the ground using Raspberry Pi hardware might, however, present a bit of a challenge. Component shortages reported last year look set to continue.

Upton told us: "Resellers are pretty much completely destocked post-Christmas. We actually have a reasonable amount of Raspberry Pi 4 4GB inventory on hand (stuff that was made too late in December to ship in 2021) and this is starting to flow out to resellers now."

A quick look at Pi supplier The Pi Hut showed all memory configurations of the Pi 4 Model B sold out.

Other vendors reckoned more stock would be in during the coming weeks, but some are applying a limit of one unit per customer. Alternatives, such as the Pi 400, remain available.

Upton reckons the tightness of supply would continue for a while, although attributed it more to demand rather than a straightforward supply crunch, resulting in a large order backlog.

"Where the semiconductor shortage has hurt us," he said, "is that we've been unable to scale production up to service that backlog more promptly." ®

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